By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist
Joe Sobol Sr. was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. The Riccobonos, his mother’s family, came to New Orleans after Sicily’s devastating famine in the 1880s. They first sold produce and then macaroni in the French Quarter. Eventually they opened The Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar at 119 St. Charles Ave., where 10-year-old Joe got his first job dressing the family’s famous roast beef po-boys.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sobol turned down a chef’s position in New York to help rebuild the city. Armed with some renovation experience, he started Big Easy Construction and, with his additional mold remediation license, built a successful small business. The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board is among his regular customers.
When COVID-19 first appeared in the United States, Sobol turned his attention to providing environmental remediation services to businesses who believe they have been impacted by the virus. Working under his existing state license Sobol and his crews headed by son Joe Sobol Jr. have been sanitizing and disinfecting work sites where employees may have come in contact with the virus.
“We are mainly working with businesses including car dealerships, collision centers and companies along the riverfront. Some use our services on a weekly basis “ said Sobol.
Sobol uses a chemical recommended for licensed operators by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His crews utilize personal protective equipment and wear a commercial respirator with a changeable filter similar to what a firefighter might wear. “N-95 masks are for the medical industry,” he explained. Sobol said the general public would not need his services unless a known virus carrier came into a home or business.
Sobol says there are two types of commercial treatments on the market. One is a wet process that would not be ideal for offices with electronics. The other is a ULV fogger that puts out a drier mist with smaller particulates. “The smaller the particles, the more the fogger can cover an area, especially nooks and crannies,” Sobol said.
There is currently no way to ensure that all virus germs have been removed. “We don’t guarantee it. We spray 100% of the area but if you open the door and another virus passes, we can’t control that,” he said.
Sobol takes all the precautions in his daily routine. “I carry wipes wherever I go. If I open a door, I use wipes not my bare hand. You have to be smart to limit exposure,” he concluded.
MASKS CAN PROVIDE ADDITIONAL PROTECTION
When I leave my house and think I might encounter another individual I wear a mask to protect myself from the public and the public from me. Now top infectious disease experts are agreeing that the virus can be spread by talking or just breathing.
Masks can provide a layer of protection. I don’t have an N-95 respirator, nor do I need one. If you have one, please donate it to a hospital so it can save lives.
Before the crisis I did collect a few surgical masks from the clinic nearby and I bought dust masks and gloves from Home Depot and Dollar Tree. If my small stash runs out I also have a pattern from the internet to make my own.
Who knows if wearing a mask in public will stop me from catching the virus. It is smarter to just stay home. Though I have a craving for a warm bagel from Costco, I am not going there anytime soon.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at email@example.com.